New Times barred from city budget meeting

July 3, 2010

New Times was shown the door when a reporter tried to cover the first meeting of a new advisory committee, formed to provide input to the San Luis Obispo city manager on budget issues. [New Times]

The Financial Sustainability Task Force, organized by city manager Katie Lichtig, is comprised of 33 members, almost all business leaders and representatives of municipal employees. More than half of the Task Force does not live in San Luis Obispo; 11 of the 33 are city employees.

Attempts by New Times to send a reporter to the meetings were rejected by Lichtig, who has also closed the sessions to the public.

“I wanted to create an environment where people feel open and honest about the topic at hand,” said Lichtig. “I want to create a group dynamic without people coming in and out.”

Because the Task Force reports directly to Lichtig, the meetings are not subject to Brown Act requirements for public participation.

Some political observers, including former San Luis Obispo mayor Peg Pinard, are objecting to the way Lichtig has stacked the Task Force with city employees instead of community residents.

“While it’s good to get business stakeholders’ input, for fundamental equity and balance there must be equal input from a committee whose focus is protecting the city’s great natural resources, which are so highly valued by its residents, and another [committee] preserving the quality of life in our residential neighborhoods. Of course, these committees should be primarily city residents,” said PInard.

Officials predict that San Luis Obispo will face a $3 million annual shortfall for the 2011-2013 fiscal years.

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I’m curious, but it sounds as though Ms. Lichtig is NOT open to transparency and in my opinion, that’s not a good thing. Personally, I like things kept “open & honest”.

I hope some solid public-private partnering comes out of this workshop. Productive, lucrative deals, like Copeland’s Chinatown land swap, or Hamish Marshall’s ever-evolving parking lot deal. Can you say “low-income downtown housing?”

I didn’t think so.

Katie Lichtig i would like to know the  guide lines you used to pick this merry band of people that feel open and honest about the topic at hand and the breakdown of their professions and if they live in the city limits . i don’t need to know their names or home address , i already know they like to sit in meeting and conferences and drink refreshing beverages and eat delicious cookies .

On this Independance Day I feel just abit slighted by the lack of San Luis Obispo City Government to even understand the concept. Merely because the meeting is not mandated to be open should not mean the public is excluded. This is the type of behavior that led to the Brown Act in the first place. The City is gifting money to the convicted drug smuggling officers who are still on city paid vacation and it pays its staff to get dressed at a time when layoffs and discontinuation of services and programs is inevitable. And then to spend $1 million for a top of the line fire truck with all of the bells and whistles is simply wrong. Public safety equipment should be utilitarian and task oriented, not a show piece. The real problem is a lack of leadership and management skills that have driven the business of government right into the ground. The closed government style by Katie Lichtig and the rest of the management in the United States of San Luis Obispo need to rethink their overall mission and stronly consider the need for community support before they cater the first meeting of this 33 member secret society. There was a time when the City Council would be ashamed not to include the public, all of the public. What a truly sad state of affairs.

The Task Force may not be subject to the Brown Act, but Lichtig’s job is subject to our whim. One more formal complaint to lodge… the list is getting long. Does anyone have a list of who was invited and who wasn’t? I’m sure I can find some fuel for the fire on it.

“I wanted to create an environment where people feel open and honest about the topic at hand,” said Lichtig. Well just great, apparently the so called committee just can’t be honest and open when the press is present.

Sounds like dickie Cheney’s energy policy meetings in the white house in the early days, when he and industry moguls formulated new and exiting ways to rip us off in secrecy. Information is power, lack of it is deadly in a Democracy.